What is dysgraphia? Dysgraphia Is a specific learning disability with writing that is more severe and more resistant to intervention as compared to other more general difficulties encountered by students that struggle with written expression.
What are the Symptoms of Dysgraphia?
Students with dysgraphia may have problems with visual-spatial processing, fine motor, language processing, spelling/handwriting, grammar and sequencing of ideas in writing. A child may have dysgraphia if his writing skills fall behind those of his peers and demonstrate some of these symptoms:
- May have illegible printing and cursive writing (despite appropriate time and attention given the task)
- Shows inconsistencies: mixtures of print and cursive, upper and lower case, or irregular sizes, shapes or slant of letters
- Has unfinished words or letters, omitted words
- Inconsistent spacing between words and letters
- Exhibits strange wrist, body or paper position
- Has difficulty pre-visualizing letter formation
- Copying or writing is slow or labored
- Shows poor spatial planning on paper
- Has cramped or unusual grip/may complain of sore hand
- Has great difficulty thinking and writing at the same time (taking notes, creative writing.)
- Difficulty spacing things out on paper or within margins (poor spatial planning)
- Frequent erasing
- Inconsistency in letter and word spacing
- Poor spelling, including unfinished words or missing words or letters
How Common is Dysgraphia?
The prevalence of a serious writing difficulty of this type is not high – much less than 8% of the population (Lindstrom, 2007).
What Causes Dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia is believed to be due primarily to neurological causes rather than to lack of teaching or practice. The term is sometimes used to describe illegible handwriting, but it actually covers all problems with written language, including clarity, accuracy and spelling.
Disgraphia is a requent accompaniment to dyslexia as it’s sometimes seen in students with dyslexia (Berninger, et al., 2008). Also, some symptoms of dysgraphia are often seen in students with attention deficity hperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Barkley, 2003).
Experts aren’t sure what causes dysgraphia and other issues of written expression. Normally, the brain takes in information through the senses and stores it to use later. Before a person starts writing, he retrieves information from his short- or long-term memory and gets organized to begin writing.
In a person with dysgraphia, experts believe one or both of the next steps in the writing process go off track:
- Organizing information that is stored in memory
- Getting words onto paper by handwriting or typing them
This results in a written product that’s hard to read and filled with errors. And most important, it does not convey what the child knows and what he intended to write.
Working memory may also play a role in dysgraphia. A child may have trouble with what’s called “orthographic coding.” This is the ability to store unfamiliar written words in the working memory. As a result, he may have a hard time remembering how to print or write a letter or a word.
There may also be a genetic link, with dysgraphia running in families.
Tutoring Dysgraphia Students
Teaching approaches for dysgraphia students that are designed to help all weaker writers are equally applicable for use with these students. Even those with the most severe writing problems can be helped to improve through direct teaching and opportunities to write each day with constructive and corrective feedback from teachers and peers. The approach that I take to help dysgraphia children is on this website for your interest.
Barkley, R.A. (2003). Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In E. J. Mash & R. A Barkley (Eds.) Child Psychopathology (wnd ed.) (pp. 75-143). New York: Guilford.
Berninger. V. W. Nielsen, K. H. Abbott, R. D. Wijsman. E., & Raskind, W. (2008). Writing problems in developmental dyslexia: Under recognised and under-treated. Journal of Psychology, 46, 1, 1-21.
Lindstrom, J. H. (2007). Determining appropriate accommodations for post-secondary students with reading and written expression disorders. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 22, 4, 229-236.